Ford, GTHA mayors lower flags to honour victims of Kamloops residential school

TORONTO — Mayors across the Greater Toronto and Hamilton area have ordered their cities’ flags to fly at half-mast following the discovery of the remains of over 200 children who attended the former Kamloops Indian Residential School in British Columbia.

On Sunday morning, Toronto Mayor John Tory tweeted a statement on the discovery.

“This is a heartbreaking reminder of the terrible and shameful legacy of residential schools and the thousands of innocent children who died. We know this discovery will also be difficult for survivors of the residential school system and a reminder of the trauma they endured,” Tory wrote.

“I have spoken with Mississaugas of the Credit First Nation Chief Stacey Laforme this weekend and he has asked for our ceremonial flags to be lowered to mourn this unspeakable tragedy,” he continued.

Bonnie Crombie, Mayor of Mississauga, also provided a statement Sunday morning, stating that she had “ordered flags at [the City of Mississauga] to be lowered to honour the memory of the 215 children found in a mass grave at a residential school in Kamloops, remaining lowered for one hour for each of the children.”

Brampton Mayor Patrick Brown, Burlington Mayor Meed Ward, Markham Mayor Frank Scarpitti, and Hamilton Mayor Fred Eisenberg have also publicly announced their cities will fly their flags at half-mast.

In a statement, Greg Rickford, Ontario’s minister of Indigenous Affairs, said Premier Doug Ford has ordered provincial flags to be lowered to pay respect to the children, their familiers and survivors of the residential school system.

“Our government, alongside Ontario Regional Chief Roseanne Archibald, was shocked and saddened by the discovery of remains of 215 children on the former site of a residential school in Kamloops, B.C.,” Rickford said.

“The residential school era is a dark chapter in Canada’s history, with Indigenous families and communities continuing to experience multi-generational trauma as a result of this terrible system. This discovery hits close to home for many Indigenous people across the country and here in Ontario who lost family and community members to the residential school system.”

On Sunday afternoon, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau released a statement saying that he had asked “the Peace Tower flag and flags on all federal buildings be flown at half-mast.”

The discovery of the remains was announced on May 27 after a preliminary survey of the grounds where the former residential school once stood was completed.

In total, the remains of at least 215 children were uncovered, some as young as three. It is believed that the deaths were undocumented.

Tk’emlúps te Secwépemc Chief Rosanne Casimir called the discovery “an unthinkable loss,” adding that “given the size of the school, with up to 500 students registered and attending at any one time, [she] understands that this confirmed loss affects First Nations communities across British Columbia and beyond.”

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